Bookworms’ delight: literary festival back in action after covid break

By Ginny Ware   |   Totnes Reporter   |
Friday 1st July 2022 4:00 pm
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Robert Davidson and his iconic photo of Frank Zappa ( )

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Ways With Words is returning for its 30th anniversary festival in the post-pandemic world.

After two years of social distancing, cancelled events and limited audiences, festival organisers are once again hosting the 10-day event at Dartington Hall from Friday July 8 to Sunday July 17.

What started life as a seven-day event has flourished into three annual festivals across the UK so when the Covid pandemic hit, hundreds of bookworms from Devon to the Lake District mourned its loss.

But now Dartington’s Ways With Words is back bringing with it a host of authors speaking on a range of topics including Joanne Harris, best-selling author of Chocolat and Coastliners, who will bring fresh insight into the psychological thriller genre in her latest novel ‘A Narrow Door’.

Chef and TV presenter, Delia Smith, will explore the phenomenon of existence, what it means to be a unique human being and how, in unity with one another, we can built a future in these uncertain times.

Veteran broadcaster and presenter of Radio 4’s Moral Maze, Michael Buerk, will share his thoughts on fondly held Ways With Words memories, and how words have become weapons in a new kind of class war that is in danger of shutting down free speech.

Author Matthew Kelly will talk about his new book ‘The Women Who Saved Our Countryside’ which celebrates four women whose work to protect unique habitats and our right to roam them, has been forgotten.

These include Sylvia Sayer who campaigned to protect Dartmoor, Octavia Hill who founded the National Trust, Beatrix Potter who was a champion of the Lake District, and Pauline Dower - the most senior woman in the National Parks Commission.

Totnes photographer, Robert Davidson, will talk about the one photograph that altered the course of his life.

It took Robert just five minutes in 1967 to take snap musician Frank Zappa sitting on a toilet in a London hotel room.

His picture became one of the defining images of the rock’n’roll era, and proved to be both a blessing and a curse for the man behind the camera.

As he approaches his 80th birthday, Robert’s life story is now being published, sharing a remarkable life and a career spanning six decades.

He is proof that by holding on, your dreams can come true.

This year’s Ways With Words has a new leader at the helm.

Former festival curator, Leah Varnell has taken over the managing director role from Kay Dunbar and Stephen Bristow, who after 30 years felt it was time to put their feet up.

Leah said: “It has been a really challenging few years at Ways With Words but we are delighted to be back in full force to celebrate our 30th anniversary and hope to see lots of guests – new and old - there.

“But we are by no way means out of the woods as an arts organisation.

“The future remains precarious but we will do we all we can to ensure Ways With Words is here for another 30 years.”

For more information and to book visit, or phone 01803 867 373 between 11am and 4pm Monday to Friday.


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